For most of her professional career, Dixie Selden divided her year seasonally: winters painting formal portraits in Cincinnati, summers executing impressionistic outdoor scenes. This duality mirrors her art training. Her first mentor was Frank Duveneck, who emphasized the figure, rendered with dark tonalities and ample pigment. After attending William Merritt Chase’s 1913 summer course in Venice, Selden dramatically altered her approach. The charismatic Impressionist encouraged her to paint quickly in order to capture the color and light of the city’s famed canals and piazzas.
The subject of The Blue Sail, Concarneau is a colorful thoniér, a tuna fishing boat typical of Brittany. In describing a similar painting, Selden commented: “There were literally hundreds of boats in the harbor that morning, and it was one of the most thrilling sights I have ever seen; it fairly dazzled me with its brilliancy.”